Monday Musical Moment: Thoughts on the Study of Music

Justin Langham   -  
Good morning and happy Monday!
I know it has been a few weeks since my last column, but I wanted to check-in briefly today! Many of you know already, but I am in the process of finishing my doctorate at the University of Houston and have been devoting most of my time and attention to that goal. Thankfully, I am currently in the final stages of that process, but there are a few more things yet to be done!
I did, however, want to reach out to you with a thought I’ve been having lately. Before starting this long road towards my doctoral degree, I had heard relatively negative and horrifying stories from certain friends and colleagues about the process; the heavy workload, amount of stress, length of time, sometimes unfair or inconsistent expectations came to mind, as well as the occasional burnout completely. I personally have several close friends who finished or came close to finishing and then quit music entirely.
Now, first and foremost, I firmly believe, and have told this to many a student or class, that everyone going into music, and especially an advanced degree in music, should have clear reasons other than a “love” of music. Alone, that of course is a great thing, but it is not a good enough reason to devote your life and livelihood to it. I always encourage those who question their place in a collegiate music program to do so deeply and without fear, and that a realization that music may not be your life’s calling is one of the most important and wonderful things that can happen. That being said, those who quit, even later in life, to do something that fulfills them more should be applauded and offered a heartfelt congratulations.
As I come to the end, I cannot help but look backwards and reflect on my journey. I am sure I will do more as I approach the actual end, culminating in graduation on Friday May 13th at 7:30pm, but who’s counting… Overall, I’m grateful that, after everything I’ve been through the past four years, I still not only love music, and despite the various trials that a program like this brings, my joy in studying and learning all I can about music has only deepened. The horror stories came true in some ways, but in others, I was grateful for the hard experiences and the growth that they elicited from me. I think about this a lot, that rarely is a time of growth comfortable, and in no way is that more appropriate than a commitment to higher learning. Even in my arduous and painstaking research for my dissertation was enjoyable and rewarding. At the same time, it will of course be nice to take a deep breath and enjoy a cold beverage once I submit the final draft 🙂
In the spirt of a deeper study of music, I would like to share a clip from one of Leonard Bernstein’s six lectures referred to as the “Harvard Lectures,” where he communicates and discusses aspects of music for an interdisciplinary crowd of intellectuals. Each lecture is 1.5-2 hours long, but this 6-minute clip offers a remarkable overview of musical harmony that any every-day music listener will enjoy! Tomorrow night at 8:30 at U of H, I will be attempting to channel my inner-Bernstein while giving my own lecture, which will be on my own doctoral research.
I also want to take this moment to thank everyone here at First UMC for their support and encouragement throughout this process. The good news is that after this week, I can begin to shift back to a “normal” life balance, starting with another musical moment next Monday!
Have a great week!